The skinny on what's changed about your body since you've given birth—and when you can expect things to return to normal.
After nine, long, hard (did we mention long?) months of being pregnant, the wait is finally over. You've given birth to a beautiful baby, and in no time, your body should be returning to its pre-pregnancy state...right?
If you're feeling a bit freaked out about the changes to your hair, skin, feet and the rest of you, don't sweat it. Here's the lowdown about what's going on with your postpartum body.
1. Your Cup(s) Runneth Over. No, it's not your imagination: Your boobs have gotten bigger. Within about three days after giving birth, the breast glands are full of milk, says Dr. Allison Hill, author of Your Pregnancy, Your Way. You can expect your breasts to increase by one to two cup sizes, but don't get too used to them. "If a woman [who is breastfeeding] gains the weight she gained with pregnancy, this size often goes back down," says Dr. Jennifer Browning, Medical Director at Care for Women OB/GYN, Kingwood, Texas.
2. Peaches and Cream...or Somewhere in Between. You may have been blessed with a rosy glow during pregnancy or maybe you've had some breakouts. It's all thanks to those extra hormones. The good news: Your postpartum complexion will begin to improve as your hormones rebalance. If you have melisma (a.k.a. pregnancy mask, which are small patches of dark pigmentation that look like freckles on the cheeks or forehead), this will slowly start to fade. "It may take up to twelve months, but the discoloration will disappear completely, as long as you protect your skin with sunscreen SPF 30 or higher," says Dr. Renee Allen, an OB/GYN in Snellville, Georgia.
3. Big Shoes to Fill. If your petite feet suddenly outgrew your favorite pair of sandals during pregnancy, don't be shocked. "As we age, our feet get flatter and can get bigger," says Browning. Factor in pregnancy, when your body retains more water, and you may have to go up a shoe size or half. "There are major hormonal and fluid shifts during the postpartum period, and the extra blood and fluid that supported the pregnancy has to go somewhere," notes Dr. Allen. Think of it as the perfect excuse to go out and buy those adorable flats you've had your eye on all season.
4. Your Innie is Now an Outtie. Your expanding pregnant belly may have changed the look of your belly button. "For many pregnant women, the umbilicus 'pops out' due to the pressure of the uterus behind it," says Dr. Hill. "After delivery, as the uterus shrinks, the belly button goes back in." In most cases, this should take about six weeks.
5. The Straight Poop. If you've been constipated since giving birth, you know just how uncomfortable that can be. "Pregnancy hormones can slow down the gastrointestinal system, as can pain medications that are given to many new moms during and after delivery," says Dr. Allen. To help get you back on track, she recommends drinking plenty of water, eating high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables and taking a stool softener.
6. Hide Nor Hair. Your hairbrush appears to have more strands in it than usual. Thanks to the stress of childbirth and—you guessed it—a surge in estrogen, you can expect some hair loss. "Because hair on our heads grows in 90-day cycles, this hair loss (called the 'postpartum effluvium') occurs three months after delivery," says Dr. Hill. If you're breastfeeding, when estrogen levels are particularly low, this may last even longer. Once you finish breastfeeding, your hair will grow back.
7. That Leaky Feeling. Laugh or sneeze too hard, and you might feel like you need to a change of underwear. Postpartum, your pelvic floor muscles have weakened, causing you to leak urine. "I tell patients that symptoms can persist six months or more after childbirth," notes Dr. Browning. To help ease this discomfort, she recommends daily Kegel exercises to help strengthen internal muscles. (In the meantime, you can use a pantiliner to stay dry—or there are special undies, by Viita, that can help!)
8. Flatulence Flurry. Another one of the um, interesting side effects of childbirth is passing gas more frequently, especially during the first few postpartum months. "During vaginal delivery, you stretch the perineal tissues and sometimes may even end up with small tears to the anal sphincter muscles...which can lead to anal incontinence," says Allen. As with urine leakage, doing pelvic floor exercises can be helpful. Also, pay attention to your diet, as some fiber-rich foods can exacerbate this condition. Before eliminating specific foods, check with your doctor.